Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Carnival Poster of Vilanova i la Geltrú 2010

Less than two week remain before Vilanova i la Geltrú enters the most emblematic event of its festive calendar: el carnaval. Those who live it intensely and participate in all events tend to end up having their apartments looking like what we see in this year’s official poster.

In the design by Àlex Soteres you will find eye masks, meringues, sardines and empty bottles, but also the many details which prove that this is the most typically Catalan of all carnivals: barretines, masks from the ball de malcasats, feathers from Moixó Foguer, xató and, of course, loads of candy.

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What I did not know when I reached La Sala and the presentation of the official poster last Friday, was that the members of the
Federation of Carnival Associations (FAC) hold their positions for three years. By coincidence it was the third year in a row I participated in this event, and must therefore stress how impressed I was.

The first year I must admit feeling quite embarrassed that something as important to this town as the carnival was presented in such an improvised way. Last year, the act had developed a lot and was therefore fun also for outsiders, who, for example, will not laugh at a character just because they know who is playing him or her.

This year, FAC had reached level of perfection: They themselves were calm and almost serious, but interacted professionally with the funny people of the ball de malcasats. The format was highly dynamic – we were repeatedly invited to switch our sight from the stage in front of us, to a screen behind – and at the same time offered a historic setting thanks to Joaquim Mir’s film of the comparses of 1936. My message to the new FAC which will take over next year is that they do not have to beat this presentation. Just as good is good enough! A big hand to the sitting FAC plus the Ball de Malcasats and Can Pistraus, who helped them.

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Technorati tags: Carnival, Catalonia, Garraf, Penedès, Vilanova,

Penedès News in English

Penedès is not only white wine and fabulous cava, but also four comarques (Alt Penedès, Anoia, Baix Penedès and Garraf) west of Barcelona which aspire to be a separate administrative unit – a vegueria. Here is a summary of local news from this area, for the period January 24-31, 2010, starting with the Penedès as a whole, and then split by comarca.


The Spanish Ministerio del Fomento has made a final approval of the stretch of the new motorway A-7 between Vilafranca del Penedès and Altafulla, via l’Arboç and el Vendrell, and the bidding process for the project will take place this year. (ElPunt)

One owner of strategically important land in Canyelles protests against the new C-15 motorway between Vilanova i la Geltrú and Vilafranca del Penedès and the start of the construction works is thereby delayed. (DdV)

A train breakdown between Cubelles and Cunit caused a 30 minutes delay on Rodalies line-2. (Avui)

Cinema owners in Penedès join the strike against a proposed law to promote Catalan in the dubbing and subtitling of movies, claiming that it would hit small cinemas in unfairly hard. (3de8)


To learn how to set up a joint agency for economic promotion, the six mayors of Garraf have carried out a study trip to Euskadi (the Basc Country). To save costs, they all went in one car and took turns driving. (DdV)

Parts of the tarmac along the passeig de la Ribera of Sitges will be replaced with greenery and an extension of the pedestrian area. (ElPunt)

The Sitges government defends the 6% price increase for municipal fresh water with the investments carried out. (ElPunt)

The new documentary movie Calidoscopi. 41,2°N- 1,8°E by Imma Serra shows how one busy intersection of Sitges changes through the different seasons of the year. (VD)(ElPunt)

Two old gigants – els gegants de la Cuyna Vella – have been restored as of their historic looks and will be re-incorporated into the carnival program of Vilanova i la Geltrú. (VD)(ElPunt)

La Penya Barcelonista (the FCB fan club) of Vilanova has celebrated its 50th anniversary. (ElPunt)

Alt Penedès

The political parties of Vilafranca del Penedès aim, but have not yet managed to reach consensus on the social aspects of the 2010 municipal budget. The CiU government denies that the year 2009 was closed with a 4 million surplus, as has been claimed by the PSC opposition. (ElPunt)(PD)

The renovation of el Palau Reial within Vinseum – the Wine Museum of Catalonia located in Vilafranca, has started and will be completed within a year. (Avui)(ElPunt)

Baix Penedès

In Calafell, two people have been detained for burglary into 50 storage rooms located in communal car parks.


The court of el Vendrell opens a criminal investigation to determine whether the iman of Cunit has put unreasonable pressure on a woman of Marroqui origin for not wearing a veil at her work at the town council. The PSC mayor of Cunit, Judit Alberich, who initially asked the parties to negotiate, has now decided to defend the individual freedom of her staff. (LaVanguardia)(ElPunt)(LaVanguardia)(3de8)

An officer at the police station of el Vendrell has been detained for having kept stolen jewellery, valued to € 200.000. (ElPunt)

The collection community SGAE demands a 342 € payment from the restaurant 'Al costat del museu' in el Vendrell, although the latter claim to only play artists who share their music for free. (3de8)


The only suspect held for the murder of Francina Castelltort, a former CiU councillor of Igualada, has been acquitted by the Superior Tribunal of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC). (ElPunt)(AD)

In Igualada, a 22-year-old has been suspended from education for two weeks after having entered the secondary school (institut) Milà i Fontanals, dressed in military clothes, with his face covered and carrying a paintball gun. (ElPunt)

Some hundred people have come together in a frozen flash mob, summoned via Facebook, calling for more community spirit (civisme) and a cleaner Igualada. (AD)

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My objective with these summaries is to, in English, present news which might be of interest to expats living in anyone of the municipalities covered, but I do not claim that local news from, for example, Vilanova, automatically are of interest to the inhabitants of the other towns of Penedès.

The idea behind the format is to present all items as extended headlines, with a focus onwhat, who and where. Readers who want more facts, like the hows and whys, will have to follow the link to the source articles. The answers to when will be the time period stated in the opening paragraph.

The main sources are AnoiaDiari·cat, Avui, Penedès Digital, El Punt, El 3 de Vuit, LaVanguardiaand Vilanova Digital.

L’Extra - the only news service which treats the Penedès as a united entity –and our local newspaper Diari de Vilanova, serve as inspiration, but are not presented as sources since their digital formats either are incomplete or do not allow you to link to individual articles.

The signature EW signals that I am personally the source of information. Any opinions expressed are my own. Earlier editions can be found under the blog label Penedès News.

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Technorati tags: Anoia, Catalonia, Garraf, Igualada, Penedès, Sitges, el Vendrell,Vilafranca, Vilanova,

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Wirdheim in Vilanova: 2010 - 4

I know, I know ... Last weekend I ought to have visited our neighbour town Sant Pere de Ribes to, for the first time, experience their winter version of the Festa Major, la Festa de Sant Pau. But in the end I did not have time for more than family and work. Fortunately enough, digital media allow me to make night time escapes into the world outside.

Guardiola, Barça and verbal contracts

"... Pep Guardiola, has signed for the Spanish champions for another season" was the headline in a major Swedish newspaper, but that is not really true. Guardiola's original intention was to renew his contract only after FC Barcelona gets a new president later this spring. However, media were obsessed with the issue and the coach realized that it was becoming disruptive to concentration of his team. A public, albeit verbal promise was chosen as a solution.

There is probably noone here who does not want to Guardiola to stay for many years. The six trophies from the last season show that he is a master at his job, yet he is so humble that he wins everyone’s respects. In the current situation, there is no other single individual who transmits so much hope and optimism for so many Catalans. And above all Catalan-language media do everything they can to build the common dream: Just imagine their joy about a week ago when Guardiola and his family showed up at a concert with the group 'els Manel', who sing modern ballads in Catalan.

Catalan hairdressers and intellectual property rights

Catalan hairdressers refuse to pay 'radio tax' and instead ask customers to bring their own iPods. In the era of illegal music downloading, SGAE - a Spanish copyright collecting society - seeks new ways to obtain revenue for the artists and in Catalonia this body seems to be extra-zealous. It demands money from pensioners' associations, the people who organize town festivities (festa major) and now also of various small businesses. I actually wonder what applies to my own office. If I promise to turn off the radio whenever a customer enters, then I do not have to pay, do I?

So much viciousness about the Spanish economy

Zapatero's government keeps up appearances despite all financial figures which speak for themselves. First comes the news that Spain will soon take back the position as the EU member state with the highest unemployment rate (20%), and then, according to the IMF, it will most likely be the only major European economy which does not return to economic growth in 2010 (-0.6% ). The EU Commission announces that it wants to send a group of countries, including Spain, on a “savings course” since their budget deficits undermine the Euro. Then enters U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini - known to have foreseen the financial crisis - into the arena and pin-points Spain as a possible future source of social unrest. True, Greece certainly has worse public finances and its labour force less competitive, but it is the Spanish economy which - because of its size - can pose a real threat to the Euro project.

Meanest of them all, however, is a German economist by the name of Jörn Berninger. Spain is one of the most frequently recurring topics in his blog and he warns that a future unemployment rate of 60% is not impossible. Ooops!

Zapatero trumps with his women

So, it is obviously more pleasant for Zapatero to talk about equality between the sexes with his European colleagues. The EU Parliament has applauded him for selecting gender equality and violence against women as two focus areas during his time in the rotating presidency. Many reforms already implemented by his government and particularly the fact that it is dominated by women are irrefutable proof that in these policies he acts with convicition.

Violence against women, Stieg Larsson and Eva Gabrielsson

Violence against women certainly was not one of the things which I, in my capacity as an expat-Swede, used receive questions about before, but that has changed after the tremendous success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium. One Catalan after the other has stressed how these books completely have changed their image of Sweden, something I, in fact, consider quite unfair. Although Larsson's narrative is highly exciting it remains a work of fiction about a more than odd life story.

Now, given how popular Stieg Larsson is here, I am surprised not to yet have seen the latest Swedish gossip in Spanish media. We have, for example, learnt that the late writer's fight against gender violence has its origin in him as a teenager watching, but not daring to intervene, when three of his friends raped a girl together. That episode resulted in a feeling of guilt which he had to bear throughout his life but which also became a catalyst to seek success – to accumulate wealth with the objective to help others.

The centre of a now on-going debate is whether Stieg Larsson actually could have written these best-sellers by himself. Many of those who used to know him personally seem to agree that he was extremely skilled at gathering facts and researching, but a poor writer. In this turbulence, Eva Gabrielsson, Larsson’s former partner, has dropped a few clues about how the writing was carried out, and perhaps an indirect explanation to her bitterness about not being his legal heir: the success trilogy is, to a so far unknown extent, also her creation.

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Sources and inspiration:

SWE: DN - Guardiola stays
SPA: LaVanguardia - The verbal agreement between Guardiola and Laportas
SPA: LaVanguardia – Guardiola, humble and calm aslo when pressed
SPA: LaVanguardia – Guardiola and ‘els Manel’

ENG: BBC – Hairdressers refusing to pay radio tax
SPA: LaVanguardia – Examples of where SGAE demands payments
SPA: LaVanguardia – SGAE deserves to be questioned

SPA: ABC - The optimistic Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado
SPA: LaVanguardia - Spain has the highest unemployment rate within the EU
SPA: LaVanguardia - Spain left alone in the recession
GER: Spiegel - The EU-commission wants to send Spain on a savings course to defend the Euro
SPA: – Berninger: The big crises is yet to come
ENG: Jörn Berninger's blog

ENG: BBC – Zapatero wants to focus on gender equality

SWE: DN – Kurdo Baksi on Stieg Larsson
ENG (!): DN – Stieg Larsson could not write
ENG (!): DN – People close to Larsson reject he could not write
SWE: DN – Stieg had an integrity as strong as Lisbet's
SWE: DN – Eva Gabrielsson: More than just proof reading

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, Zapatero

SWE: Wirdheim i Vilanova: 2010 - 4

Jag vet, jag vet... Den här veckan borde jag ha besökt vår grannstad Sant Pere de Ribes för att för första gången uppleva deras vinterversion av Festa Major, la Festa de Sant Pau. Nu blev det ingen tid över till annat än jobb och familj och det är bara att acceptera. Vilken tur att jag kan göra nattliga utflykter ut i världen genom digitala medier.

Guardiola, Barça och muntliga löften

”...Pep Guardiola, har skrivit på för den spanska mästarklubben ytterligare en säsong” har det rapporterats i Sverige, men det är inte riktigt sant. Guardiolas ursprungliga avsikt var att förnya sitt kontrakt som först efter det att F.C. Barcelona får en ny president senare i vår. Medias fokus på frågan blev dock så stort att tränaren insåg att det störde för lagets koncentration och då blev ett offentligt, men muntligt löfte en utväg.

Det finns nog ingen här som inte vill att Guardiola stannar i många år. De sex pokalerna från förra säsongen bevisar att han är mästare på sitt jobb, men ändå är han så ödmjuk att alla hyser respekt för honom. Ingen annan människa inger i dagsläget så mycket hopp och framtidstro åt så många katalaner. Och inte minst katalanskspråkiga media gör allt vad de kan för att bygga vidare på den gemensamma drömmen: Gissa om glädjen blev stor när Guardiola med familj för någon vecka sedan dök upp på en koncert med gruppen els Manel, som sjunger moderna visor på katalanska.

Katalanska hårfrisörer och upphovsrätten

Katalanska hårfrisörer vägrar att betala 'radioskatt' och ber kunderna ta med sin egen Ipod. I musiknedladdningens tid har SGAE – en spansk motsvarighet till svenska STIM – sökt nya sätt att få intäkter till upphovsmännen och i Katalonien är de extra nitiska. De kräver pengar av pensionärsföreningar, av folk som ordnar stadsfester (festa major) och nu senast, alltså, av olika småföretagare. Jag undrar vad som egentligen gäller för mitt eget kontor. Om jag lovar att stänga av radion när det kommer in en kund borde jag väl få slippa betala?

Alla sprider elakheter om den spanska ekonomin

Zapateros regering håller skenet uppe trots att den verkligen har de ekonomiska siffrorna mot sig. Först kommer nyheten att Spanien snart återtar positionen som det medlemsland i EU som har högst arbetslöshet (20%) och sedan påpekar IMF att detta ser ut att bli den enda stora europeiska ekonomin inte kommer tillbaka till ekonomisk tillväxt under 2010 (-0,6%). EU-kommissionen meddelar att den vill skicka en grupp länder, däribland Spanien, på sparkurs eftersom deras budgetunderskott underminerar euro-samarbetet. Då kommer den amerikanske ekonomen Nouriel Roubini – känd för att ha förutsett finanskrisen – in på arenan och särskiljer Spanien som källan till framtida social oro. Grekland har förvisso sämre statsfinanser och lägre konkurrenskraft, men det är den spanska ekonomin som på grund av sin storlek kan utgöra ett riktigt hot mot euron.

Styggast av alla är dock en tysk ekonom vid namn Jörn Berninger. Spanien är ett av de mest frekvent återkommande ämnena i hans bloggande och han varnar för att en framtida arbetslöshet på 60% inte är omöjlig. Ojsan!

Zapatero trumfar med sina kvinnor

Nej, då är det roligare för Zapatero att prata jämställdhet med Europa. EU-parlamentet har applåderat honom för att han vill ta upp jämlikhet mellan könen och våld mot kvinnor som två hjärtefrågor under sin tid som "roterande" ordförande. I de frågorna ger de reformer som hans regering genomför och inte minst dess kvinnodominans ovedersägliga bevis på att hans övertygelse är sann.

Våld mot kvinnor, Stieg Larsson och Eva Gabrielsson

Våld mot kvinnor hörde inte till de saker som jag, i min egenskap av utlandssvensk, brukade få frågor om förr, men det har ändrats efter de enorma framgångarna för Stieg Larssons Millennium. Den ena katalanen efter den andra har påpekat att böckerna helt har ändrat deras bild av Sverige, något jag delvis upplevt som orättvist. Att Larssons berättelse är spännande ändrar ju inte det faktum att det är en skönlitterär beskrivning om ett minst sagt udda levnadsöde.

Med tanke på hur stor Stieg Larsson är här, förvånar det mig att jag i spanska medier ännu inte sett det senaste svenska skvallret. Först fick jag veta att den framlidne författarens kamp mot könsrelaterat våld har sitt ursprung i att han som tonåring såg på, men inte vågade ingripa, när tre av hans kamrater tillsammans våldtog en tjej. Skuldkänslorna fick han bära med sig genom hela livet men blev också en drivkraft för framgång - att skapa resurser för att hjälpa andra.

Sedan kom debatten om Stieg Larsson verkligen kan ha skrivit böckerna själv. De som kände honom personligen tycks vara ganska överens om att han var enormt kunnig på att samla fakta och utreda men en dålig skribent. I veckan antydde Eva Gabrielsson, hans före detta sambo, något om hur arbetet genomfördes, men indirekt kanske också förklarar hennes bitterhet i striden om arvet efter honom: romansuccén är, till hittills okänd grad, också hennes skapelse.

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Källor och inspiration:

SWE: DN - Guardiola stannar
SPA: LaVanguardia - Guardiolas och Laportas muntliga avtal
SPA: LaVanguardia – exempel på Guardiolas ödmjukhet och lugn
SPA: LaVanguardia – Guardiola och ‘els Manel’

ENG: BBC – Hårfrisörer som vägrar betala radioskatt
SPA: LaVanguardia – Exempel på vad SGAE vill ha betalt för
SPA: LaVanguardia – ett ifrågasättande av SGAE

SPA: ABC - Spaniens finansminister Elena Salgado är optimistisk
SPA: LaVanguardia - Spansk arbetslöshet högst inom EU
SPA: LaVanguardia - Den spanska recessionen fortsätter
GER: Spiegel - EU-kommissionen vill sätta Spanien på sparkurs för eurons skull
SPA: – Berninger: Den värsta krisen har inte kommit ännu
ENG: Jörn Berningers blogg

ENG: BBC – Zapatero satsar på jämställdhet

SWE: DN – Kurdo Baksi om Stieg Larsson
ENG (!): DN – Stieg Larsson could not write
ENG (!): DN – People close to Larsson reject he could not write
SWE: DN – Stiegs integritet lik Lisbets
SWE: DN – Eva Gabrielsson: mer än bara korrekturläsning

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Katalonien, Spanien, Zapatero,

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Penedès News in English

Penedès is not only white wine and fabulous cava, but also four comarques (Alt Penedès, Anoia, Baix Penedès and Garraf) west of Barcelona which aspire to be a separate administrative unit – a vegueria. Here is a summary of local news from this area, for the period January 17-23, 2010, starting with the Penedès as a whole, and then split by comarca.


C.P. Vilanova beats Caixa Penedès Patí Vilafranca 5 to 2 in the Penedès roller hockey derby.

March 26 to May 26 is bidding period for those who want to make the functionality study of the new train connection (el tren orbital), to unite Vilanova i la Geltrú with Mataró, via Vilafranca del Penedès, Martorell, Terrassa, Sabadell and Granollers.
(El Punt)

February 3, the Institut d’Estudis Penedesencs, the Generalitat and the town council of Vilafranca del Penedès will commemorate all citizens of Penedès who were victims of the Spanish Civil War or the Franco dictatorship.
(El Punt)

Ryanair will, most likely, reduce the number of flights on Reus, the closest airport for many people in the Penedès. The Spanish government, on the other hand, has announced that it will invest less than earlier foreseen in the same airport.
(El Punt)(El Punt)

Of 735 positions as court judges in Catalonia, 152 are currently vacant. Vilanova i la Geltrú and el Vendrell are among the towns seeing the worst delays because of this.
(El Punt)

For geographical proximity, six municipalities in the northern parts of Anoia do not want to belong to a future vegueria Penedès, but to Central Catalonia, as of current plans.


Within 15 days, the reception of digital TV (TDT) will improve in the areas of Sitges currently having problems, i.e. Can Girona, Vallpineda, Quint Mar, Llevantina, Bòvila and Baix Fondat.
(El Punt)

The now opened extension of the elderly care centre el Redós in Sant Pere de Ribes doubles the capacity.
(El Punt)

The political parties of Sant Pere de Ribes protest against the fact that the main hospital of Garraf will be moved to Vilanova i la Geltrú and demand investments in the future long-term care centre Sant Camil.
(El Punt)

The second phase of the “Zapatero plan” will make it possible for Vilanova to cover the ditch of the stream la Pastera and to improve the street lighting along the beach Ribes Roges.
(El Punt)(VilanovaDigital)

One participant had his leg badly damaged after slipping under a carriage during the Tres Tombs of Vilanova.

The inhabitants of la Geltrú complain that that they still suffer from high noise levels and indecent activities, above all during weekends.

The plan called VNG Nord Multiple City - consisting of housing, services and a technology park - is the winning proposal for how to develop the Eixample Nord, a planned extension of Vilanova.
(El Punt)

Alt Penedès

The invitation to macrobotellon – a huge outdoor (drinking) party – in Vilafranca del Penedès on February 27, has been accepted by over 1.300 people on Facebook.
(3deVuit)(El Punt)

The work to construct new accesses to the tollway AP7 from Vilafranca Nord and Gelida have been initiated and will make it possible for the inhabitants to only pay for the distance they actually drive. For those who enter at Vilafranca and exit at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia or Gelida, the drive will remain free of charge.
(3deVuit)(El Punt)

Vinseum – the wine musuem of Vilafranca – has awarded a grant to a linguistic study into the hyperboles and expressions used by wine experts.

Baix Penedès

Inhabitants of el Vendrell living close to the stream Lluc demand it be channelled through pipes to prevent that it again serves as a breeding ground for tiger mosquitos.
(El Punt)

A group of movie enthusiasts create a club in el Vendrell.
(El Punt)

The Festa Major de Sant Julià of l’Arboç is incorporated on the Generalitat’s list over cultural traditions of national interest.

The three municipalities l'Arboç, Sant Jaume dels Domenys and la Bisbal del Penedès join forces in a door-to-door project promoting recycling.

Regular users of the recycling station (deixalleria) of Cunit will not any longer receive rebates on the waste collection fees.
(El Punt)


The municipalities of Anoia create a joint council to manage public healthcare.

The group Amic del Rec protests againt a municipal zoning project claimed to destroy the spirit of a historic part of Igualada.

The Igualada town council will create a new bicycle lane from avinguda Mare de Déu de la Pietat to avinguda de l’Estadi..

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My objective with these summaries is to, in English, present news which might be of interest to expats living in anyone of the municipalities covered, but I do not claim that local news from, for example, Vilanova, automatically are of interest to the inhabitants of the other towns of Penedès.

The idea behind the format is to present all items as extended headlines, with a focus on what, who and where. Readers who want more facts, like the hows and whys, will have to follow the link to the source articles. The answers to when will be the time period stated in the opening paragraph.

The main sources are AnoiaDiari·cat, Avui, Penedès Digital, El Punt, El 3 de Vuit, LaVanguardia and Vilanova Digital.

L’Extra - the only news service which treats the Penedès as a united entity –and our local newspaper Diari de Vilanova, serve as inspiration, but are not presented as sources since their digital formats either are incomplete or do not allow you to link to individual articles.

The signature EW signals that I am personally the source of information. Any opinions expressed are my own. Earlier editions can be found under the blog label Penedès News.

- - -
Technorati tags: Anoia, Barcelona, Catalonia, Garraf, Igualada, Penedès, Sitges, el Vendrell, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

The "Tres Tombs" of Vilanova i la Geltrú, 2010

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 couple in carriage

Sunday, January 17, Vilanova i la Geltrú celebrated its Festa Major d’hivern, els Tres Tombs. With constant raining, the conditions were far from ideal – especially for those creatures who walk on hard hooves – but in spite that some 220 riders, 50 carts and 80 carriages participated in the event.

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 another couple

Find here my earlier posts on the day of Saint Anthony and the Tres Tombs – 2009: 1, 2; 2008: 1.

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 rambla

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 carriage rambla

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 els burros catalans

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 a tough day

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 molta pluja

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 tot que els nens no mengen

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 blat de moro

sant antoni tres tombs vilanova 2010 halloween leftovers

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Tres Tombs, Vilanova

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Wirdheim in Vilanova: 2010-3

This week, media are full of nightmarish reports from Port-au-Prince, showing people suffering the consequences of the massive earthquake. By mistake, our children have most certainly come to see images which ought to have been saved for later, but I am happy to have a feeling that not even the six-year-old really takes in what he sees. I have understood that Swedish experts advise parents to answer honestly about what has happened, while they at the same time stress that Sweden has been built on ancient mountains which do not move any longer. Around Barcelona we are less protected; a few days ago a Catalan expert reminded us how an earthquake devastated Lisbon in 1755. But, after all, to worry about such small a risk while the people of Haiti are dying, just underlines how fortunate we are here in Europe.

Vilanova and my first real carnival

Last year, I went from studying the Catalan folk culture to take part in it. In a few weeks, it is time for the next step – to, for the first time, live the carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú not as an observer but as a participant. The ‘carnival associations’ are already underway with their preparations, but the little I know about who will do what is absolutely confidential. What I can reveal is that I will celebrate together with the casteller team Bordegassos. I hope to have my wife signing up as well, otherwise I will not get the full flavour of the main day: the candy war between the comparses de Vilanova.

Vilanova and the Tres Tombs

When my children complain that 'our Swedish town’ Halmstad is much cleaner than Vilanova, I usually counterattack by saying that the streets here used in an entirely different way. Actually, not a single month passes by without any big outdoor event being organized and during the summer it becomes almost too intense. This weekend, for example, we celebrated the Tres Tombs - our so-called "little town festivity" (festa major petita) – with the traditional horse parade.

Vilanova, Barça and strangely strong emotions

If my relatively new interest in folk culture fascinates my wife, it cannot compare with how surprised she is about my growing feelings for Barça. They are, indeed, strange for someone who never cared about football before we moved here but, in my eyes, prove how difficult it is to not get carried away when you live here. If my history as a culer began, let us say, uphill during Rijkaard’s final year as coach, then the first one with Guardiola - 'el Barça de les sis Copes' - perhaps offered too many good things. Last Wednesday, I therefore had a hard time to see the team excel against Sevilla but still be kicked out from the Spanish Cup (Copa del Rei). And then, when I heard how the merengues of Vilanova (or were they pericos?) shot off fireworks in the street to celebrate 'our' failure, I finally understood how you can hate someone for being a fan of another football team.

Barcelona, Catalonia and the Winter Olympics

A sports-related news item which has received an enormous attention in both Catalan and Spanish media is that Barcelona's mayor Jordi Hereu (PSC) again wants to organize the Olympic Games. This time we are talking about the Winter Games of 2022 and, for obvious reasons, it would be in cooperation with the ski resorts of the Catalan Pyrenees. Since the initiative popped up without prior discussion, there are many who condemn it as pure election tactics. If the capital of Catalonia held municipal elections today, PSC would end up far behind CiU. The Tripartit governing the Catalan parliament has endorsed the plan and that merits at least two comments. Firstly, it seems odd to me that ICV, Catalonia’s Green party and one of the coalition partners, only recently presented their first objections against a project of this magnitude. Secondly, these plans increase the tension between Catalonia and the rest of Spain since Zaragoza and Jaca in the Aragon-section of the Pyrenees, apparently, had already announced that they want to host the games of that year. Eventually Spain will have to select one of the options. As a solution, someone has already proposed a joint candidacy, but that I see as highly unlikely. Catalans might praise the autonomy they had during the Crown of Aragon, but the relationship between the modern autonomous regions of Catalonia and its neighbour to the east is anything but close.

Spain and U.S. Intelligence Amateurs

The news from Spain which upset me the most this week are really about the United States. First of all, I want to stress that I am more America-friendly than the average Swede and began to question the U.S. intelligence service only after American troops had marched into Iraq. But that the FBI, in order to develop a picture of how Osama bin Laden might look today, has used a photo of a Spanish left-wing politician, makes me lose even more confidence in them. With the resources they have, could they not, at least, have reversed the haircut? By the way, does anybody know, in which direction Osama bin Laden - whom most of us have only seen in his turban – combs his hair? Gaspar Llamazares (IU) have all rights to feel totally disgusted about being exposed this way. Although I do not share his ideology, I must say that on TV this Spanish politician always comes across as an honest and knowledgeable, something I can not say about all of them.

Vic, Spain, residence permits and respect

Attempts to illegally enter into Spain from Africa have almost halved since with these times of crisis it is harder for (us) immigrants to find jobs here. Catalonia is an area which attracts a lot of newcomers and some municipalities have in a short time gone through tremendous population changes. Among the registered (empadronats) inhabitants of Vic, in Central Catalonia, more than 25% are of foreign origin. In order to prevent conflicts, the municipal government (a CiU, PSC and ERC constellation) has decided that immigrants who do not have a valid residence permit will not be allowed to register nor make the bi-annual renewal needed for those who do not fall under EU rules. These measures have prompted sharp reactions from the Spanish PSOE government. With a reference to laws on municipal obligations, the latter demands for Vic to continue to accept immigrants as official inhabitants without asking whether they have their papers in order, although those who do not - under another but equally valid Spanish law - in reality should be expulsed.

I can not help drawing a parallel to a Swedish discussion about granting refugees, who remain in the country illegally, the right to care in public hospitals and to send their children to school. It is amazing how different two European societies can be. For being in northern Europe, Sweden receives many immigrants, but unless you obtain all necessary permits it is almost impossible to live openly in the country. Spain's geographical position makes the immigration influx here much bigger. Many of those who arrive do not have the required documents but it is easy to find jobs on the black market - well, at least it used to be - and as soon as you register in a certain municipality, you can benefit from public healthcare and education.

This will, at least for many Swedes, seem a contradiction but in Catalonia and the rest of Spain it is a question about divided competences. It is simply not a task for the municipalities to enforce immigration laws. However, they are responsible for education and health care and how will they be able to make proper plans if noone knows how many inhabitants they actually have?

Under no circumstances do I claim that one system is better than the other but believe that the difference can partly be explained with very different concepts of the word respect. A good Scandinavian above all has to be respectful to society as a whole - a highly impersonal common good – and therefore expect that laws be consistent and applied equally for all. Here around the Mediterranean, respect is first and foremost about not interfering with other people's private affairs. In this case, it in fact helps civil servants if systems are not fully transparent – they might suspect that a certain foreigner does not have a visa which he is obliged to have, but neither want to nor are expected to investigate. My conclusion is that it will take some time before we have a common EU market for bureaucrats. Let us all be grateful for that!

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Sources and inspiration:

SWE: Så talar du med barnen om katatstrofen i Haiti
SPA: La UE y la reconstrucción de Haiti
CAT: Guardiola - Sento que els he fallat
SWE: Barcelonas mål räckte inte
SPA: Hereu confiesa que la idea es suya
SPA: Montilla transmite apoyo para los JJ.OO. 2022
SPA: Hereu reclama el soporte de ICV
ENG: Llamazares’ photo used to create picture of older Bin Laden
SPA: Zapatero pedirá una investigación en el uso del imagen
ENG: Spain sees sharp drop in migrants from Africa
CAT: Vic deixa d’empadronar ‘sensepapers
SPA: Es legal no empadronar a inmigrantes irregulares
CAT: Osona desperta Espanya

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Barça, Catalonia, CiU, Penedès, PSC, PSOE, Spain, Vilanova